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Sure, quarterbacks—and their long touchdown passes—get all the glory in the NFL. But running backs have provided their fair share of thrills, too. Some of the NFL’s most memorable plays have been long, game-altering runs, with nimble running backs eluding tackles, running over defense backs and finding the end zone.
5 Marshawn Lynch Vs. the New Orleans Saints
Marshawn Lynch doesn’t get as much attention as the other backs on this list. But in the 2010 NFL playoffs, Lynch, playing for heavy underdog Seattle Seahawks, rumbled 67 yards for a touchdown that helped give the Seahawks a 41-36 victory over the New Orleans Saints, who had won the Super Bowl the year before. Lynch’s run was highlighted by a massive stiff-arm against Saints cornerback Tracy Porter, Lynch’s signature move. This might be the best touchdown run in NFL playoff history.
4 Earl Campbell Vs. the Miami Dolphins
Modern NFL fans might not remember much about Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell. They might not even remember much about the Houston Oilers. But Campbell was a bruising back who dished out as much punishment as he received during his NFL career. His best NFL run came in 1978 against the Miami Dolphins. During the game, Campbell ran for 199 yards and four touchdowns to give his team the win. The best run of the day? An 81-yard run with just more than a minute left in regulation. Campbell, as typical, ran over several defenders during this run, something that was far from unusual from this tank of a running back.
3 Tony Dorsett Vs. the Minnesota Vikings
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett was one of the most exciting players in the NFL. Runs such as his 99-yard TD against the Minnesota Vikings in 1982 are the reason. After bursting through the middle of the Vikings defense, Dorsett zipped to the sideline and then tip-toed along it for 99 blazing yards to the end zone. The play still ranks as the longest rushing play in NFL history.
2 Walter Payton Vs. the Minnesota Vikings
Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton rushed for more than 16,000 yards for the Chicago Bears during his career. His most impressive yards might have come against the Minnesota Vikings in 1977. Payton was just getting over the flu, but this didn’t stop him from rushing for 275 yards in a Bears win. On Payton’s 38th carry of the day, he exploded over his right tackle, slashed to the right and raced down the sideline. He didn’t stop until going out of bounds 58 yards later on the Vikings 9 yard line.
1 Marcus Allen Vs. the Redskins
When’s the best time to unleash an epic touchdown run? How about in the Super Bowl? That’s what Marcus Allen, running back for the Los Angeles Raiders, did in his team’s 38-9 rout of the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVII. In the third quarter, Redskins defender Ken Coffey had an unimpeded path to Allen. But instead of taking a loss, Allen reversed direction and zipped past a befuddled Coffey. The result? Allen sprinted 74 electrifying yards to the end zone. It was the top moment of Allen’s 191-yard rushing day that earned him Super Bowl MVP honors.